Two years ago, if you had told Mary Reid she’d be ready to move from La Grange after 16 months, she wouldn’t have believed you. The western burb had everything she and her husband were looking for: a lively downtown, manicured streets, good schools. But that was before a friend clued them in on a place where the houses were bigger and the community friendlier—two things the couple hadn’t even realized how much they wanted. “We stumbled across Lemont and realized this is awesome,” Reid says.
There’s something else the suburb offered: people just like her. Millennials are fueling a new rush into the partly rural, partly blue-collar village for the first time since the recession, says Frank Dimperio, CEO of 5th Avenue Construction, which built the Glens of Connemara subdivision in Lemont. Home sales in its 60439 ZIP code were up 94 percent last summer from the same period five years earlier, according to Redfin. Dimperio says that only six of Connemara’s 140 homes remain unsold, and most buyers have been in their mid-20s to mid-30s.
Many are lured to Lemont by the additional space they can afford. The Reids plan to build new digs in the Kettering Estates subdivision that will be nearly double the size of—and the same price as—their home in La Grange, and their commute to the city will only increase by about 20 minutes. Southwest suburban real estate agent Christine Wilczek says that millennials often come to her with a list of three to five areas they’re considering, and Lemont regularly climbs to the top because of the value they can get. According to Trulia, the average price per square foot over the past year was $169, compared with $272 in an inner-ring suburb like La Grange.
There are reasons Lemont is so reasonably priced, of course. For one thing, it hasn’t entirely shed its industrial past: The Citgo oil refinery’s smokestacks dot the horizon. And while the downtown has its old-timey charms, such as an abundance of buildings made with locally quarried limestone, there aren’t many trendy restaurants or stores.
No matter to homebuyers like Mary Reid and her husband, who put a premium on feeling like they’re part of a sociable community. The subdivision they picked is flooded with couples in the 25- to 40-year-old age range with young kids. “I’m 36, and my friend, who also just moved there, is 36 too, and she says she feels old there,” Reid says. “We’re in the [neighborhood] Facebook group, and when someone moves in, there are at least 20 comments like ‘Welcome,’ ‘Come ring on my bell.’ We don’t have that in La Grange.”
One of six homes still unsold in the Glens of Connemara subdivision, this builder’s model features a freestanding tub in the master bathroom, a three-car garage, and luxe kitchen appliances.
This 5,000-square-foot house sits on three wooded acres complete with a koi pond. A similar home just five minutes closer to Chicago might cost twice as much.
Take your pick from the eight plans available in this subdivision. A bit cookie-cutter? Yes, but in exchange you’ll get a brand-new house with between 2,400 and 4,300 square feet.